Casa Loma, Toronto

Our Casa Loma tour in Toronto was nothing short of an experience. The one that brimmed with stories of joy, sorrow, and tragedy.

Casa Loma is a Gothic Revival style mansion, now a historic house museum. It was Sir Henry Mill Pellatt’s early 20th century chateau, the biggest private residence ever constructed in Canada, sitting at an elevation of 460 ft above sea level.

Pellatt brought hydro-electricity to Ontario, and through which he made his fortune. His was the first company that harnessed the generating power of Niagara Falls; the electricity that powered the province. He became Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles, and his leadership of this regiment earned him a knighthood.

But legislators launched a campaign proclaiming hydro power should be as free as air, and they took his electric company from him through a legislative process.

His empire was rapidly disintegrating with heavy debts to the bank, and his money tied up in real estate developments stalled due to the Great Depression. He was unceremoniously forced out of his 98-room palace with just three van loads of belongings. Later, he auctioned off his luxury items to cover his debts.

Lady Mary Pellatt died of a heart attack in April 1924. The City of Toronto seized Casa Loma for backed taxes. Pellatt died in 1939.

Sir Henry and Mary Pellatt in 1910. Courtesy: Spacing Magazine.
As we approached the entrance gate…
The flags and the lights in the entrance lobby

The dining rooms

The baths of the castle times. These are two of the thirty.

Inside Casa Loma, there’s a tunnel, 800 feet long, which was once a secret passage between the castle and horse stables.
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Legend has it that the tunnel is haunted. People have seen a lady in white, heard spooky voices.
Potting shed – Pellatt was fond of flowers.

Oak Rooms – the French oak panels

The 10,000-book library
Stained glass ceiling in the Conservatory
Pellatt’s study contained a replica of Napoleon’s desk
Some of the movies shot in the castle

The suite-style bedrooms

The quiet sitting rooms

Blueberry-carved ceiling
Pellatt’s son – the one on the wall
The way to the Scottish Tower
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This spiral staircase will lead you to the highest point in the tower. The staircase is narrow, may become congested, is the only way up and down.
The highest point in the tower.
View from the tower (CN Tower is seen)

Ghost in Grand Central

We paid to be a part of a ghost tour at the Grand Central terminal on 42nd street, almost a decade ago.
The tour host welcomed us, maintaining an eerie voice, as he not only briefed us about the haunted areas in New York City but cautioned us; this appeared more gimmicky to market his tours than the possibility that a ghost would reveal itself.
But, every time he said many places in Manhattan, including Wall Street and Canal Street, remained haunted and that people had heard native Indian death chants, about twenty of us thrill-seeking strangers peeked at one another, ticking each one off, ensuring there was no zombie in disguise. Worse, when he blurted that the Grand Central itself was haunted, we braved a quick 360-degree whirl. It didn’t help that it was raining outside in the month of December and we were at the terminal in an off-peak hour. It helped though that in the first fifteen minutes of the tour, we didn’t experience any paranormal kicks or slaps.
The host informed us that the terminal had been constructed for the wealthy; that Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built and owned the station, had once ferried people from Staten Island to Manhattan, charging 18 cents per person; that his ambitious vision had driven him to build railroads.
If one noticed the sloping ramps in the terminal, the system was built to provide an efficient flow of passengers to and from trains.
Twisted yet beautiful

The mural painting in the vaulted ceilings was based on the designs of constellations. History: after the layout image was designed, it was projected onto the ceiling for painting. But it was erroneously projected upwards, reversing the image. Responding to critics, Vanderbilt suggested that the design be looked at as a new concept. Then, at one point, the whole ceiling was black from cigarette smoke; and though it was cleaned, a black spot in a corner was left untouched for souvenir-sake, if you will.

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Archaic and haunted

John Campbell, another rich man, and Vanderbilt’s friend, had requested the latter to rent him a room. Hence, there is a Campbell apartment within the complex where you’d see a locker. Legend has it that Campbell’s ghost lives there. Besides, there’s an oyster bar in the terminal where customers have reported hearing strange voices and sounds of breaking plates.

There’s a safe passage from under Grand Central station to the Astoria hotel, which VVIPs like the President of the USA take in case of emergency.

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Any beautiful city in the world has a mysterious past, or present, to it. How’s New York City an exception?

The Spirit House At Royal Ontario

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I captured this image of the Spirit House, which was a hall of intrigue with myriad story possibilities, at Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the Freedom Tower in New York City, designed Lee-Chin Crystal; also designing some of the chairs in the Spirit House.

The stainless steel chairs synced well with the crystalline surrounding. From the center of the house, one could see in the arch above an interwoven pattern of concrete, which linked exhibit spaces with elevators, speaking of conflicts in stories.